Lost Baggage

By | Category: Travel rumblings

Stories appear in the media from time-to-time giving league tables of those airlines that lose the most luggage. At the time of the British Airways/Terminal 5 opening at Heathrow, thousands of bags were left lying around.
Now the Association of European Airlines (AEA) has decided that it will no longer publish the figures of lost baggage. Admittedly, this only gave the results of 30 different airlines who are members of AEA. There are worse airlines around the world so comparisons can only really be made in Europe. But why have they decided to axe these lists.
The reason? Because airline members say that it gave a bad image. Because as the AEA also said, it caused a great deal of unhappiness. So what? Do they honestly thank that the loss of a passenger’s luggage doesn’t cause unhappiness as well? Do they believe that passengers are so daft as to believe that airlines – or any companies- are not perfect? As the Air Transport Users Council said, these tables provided an incentive for airlines to do better. No airline wanted to be at the bottom of the list so they worked with airports and their baggage handling companies to improve and monitor how baggage was handled.
I can understand some of the ire of the airlines. If it is written that 10,000 items of luggage went missing, then it sounds a lot. If you say that 0.5% of all the baggage handled by an airline went missing then it sounds a lot less. But the media prefers 10,000 to 0.5% because it sounds so significant. Some bags are likely to go missing just because life isn’t perfect. In all my years of flying I have never lost a bag. It has gone to the wrong destination once but the airline told me in advance that this would happen (This happened when the plane developed a technical fault. They could get me to my destination at about the same time if they put me on another flight but they didn’t have time to switch the luggage. So as far as I was concerned Continental Airlines had been honest and helpful.)
The USA publishes figures for lost baggage for its airlines and it will be strange if European airlines do not. I can’t really imagine it will play a significant role in passengers choosing one airline over another. Passengers will switch if the baggage is lost and the airline doesn’t provide a satisfactory explanation. But what it will do is provide airlines with little reason to improve because part of the spotlight will have been lifted from them.

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